FAYETTEVILLE — Public school students in grades 5-12 will stay in class an extra 35 minutes each day for the remainder of the school year beginning Monday, Feb. 5.
The School Board on Thursday voted unanimously to recommend approval of the change, and a policy committee on Friday affirmed the decision. The district formally announced the change in a video featuring Superintendent John Mulford (see below).
The decision came after students missed seven days due to snow-related school closures. The state recently allowed districts to switch from a traditional 178-day school year to an hours-based calendar to avoid extending the school year when weather causes cancellations.
The state’s new LEARNS Act requires public school districts in Arkansas to hold in-person classes for 178 days or 1,068 hours in order to receive funding to help pay for the Acts’ new $50,000 minimum teacher salary requirement. The new law does not allow alternative methods of instruction (AMI) days to count toward the requirement. Fayetteville officials have said the new salary requirements amount to about $2 million in additional funding, so staying in compliance is essential.
The new, longer school days will allow the semester to end as previously planned on May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day.
Mulford said aside from keeping the original calendar in place, the decision was also made in an effort to recoup as much instructional time as possible for teachers and students before state testing begins later this year.
Kindergarten through 4th grade will not experience any changes to their schedule.
“The reason elementary times will remain unchanged is because they already have about an additional 30 minutes of instruction incorporated into their day,” said Mulford.
The revised daily schedules are as follows:
- Middle school – 7:40 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
- Junior high – 8:25 a.m. to 4:05 p.m.
- High school – 8:30 a.m. to 4:05 p.m.
Additionally, Feb. 19 (Presidents’ Day) will remain a day off but may be used as a make-up day if needed due to further weather-related closures. Also, the April 19 District holiday was rescheduled to April 8 to coincide with the total solar eclipse, and may also serve as a make-up day if needed.
Finally, May 28, 29, and 30 will serve as additional make-up days if the area experiences additional weather-related closings.
Mulford said anyone with schedule conflicts should contact their school office.
“We recognize that adding an additional 35 minutes to the end of the instructional day for grades 5 through 12 could create unique challenges for some of you,” said Mulford. “Our goal will be to be as flexible as possible with staff and families as we move forward.”